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Page last updated at 11:27 GMT, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

'Civilians die' in Pakistan clash

By M Ilyas Khan
BBC News, Islamabad

Pakistani army in Mohmand
There has been fierce fighting in the region recently

At least three civilians have been killed in fighting between troops and Islamic militants in north-western Pakistan, officials and witnesses say.

Locals say some militants also died in the clashes in Mohmand district but it is unclear how many. Official claims of 60 militants killed are unconfirmed.

Troops used artillery, helicopter gunships and jets to pound the area.

Pakistan has thousands of troops in its tribal regions, but Western and Afghan officials say militants are undeterred.

Mortar shells

Fighting broke out when troops in Mohmand district attacked villages where militants were said to be hiding.

A statement from the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) on Tuesday evening said more than 60 "hardcore militants" had been killed in the day-long operation.

Map

Residents reached by the BBC could not confirm the numbers, but said some militants had been killed.

Witnesses said ground troops, backed by tanks and armoured personnel carriers, demolished more than 25 houses and shops along a local road to render it safe for troop movement.

At least three civilians were also killed when a restaurant was hit by mortar shells, residents said.

The targeted villages, located in the Lakaro and Pandyali sub-districts, are believed to be the stronghold of militants in Mohmand.

Earlier this month, suspected militants killed six paramilitary soldiers in pre-dawn attacks on some check posts in the nearby Mamad Ghat area of Mohmand.

The army at that time said the attack was launched by more than 600 militants, mostly foreigners who had crossed over from Afghanistan.

It said it had killed 45 militants in retaliatory fire.

The communications infrastructure in Mohmand has been badly damaged and it is difficult to obtain independent confirmation of such claims.


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